Watch the official video of Tina Kelley’s book reading this past Saturday at Words Bookstore in New Jersey!
Check out photos from the event below.
Watch the official video of Tina Kelley’s book reading this past Saturday at Words Bookstore in New Jersey!
Check out photos from the event below.
Our celebration of National Poetry Month continues with Joan Cusack Handler, Publisher and Senior Editor of CavanKerry Press, selecting a poem from Tina Kelley’s Abloom & Awry.
Read “Liking Drew” by author Tina Kelley below.
If you haven’t done so, make sure you get your copy of Letters from Limbo here.
Check out photos from the event below.
April 19th, 2017
Former CavanKerry Press Associate Publisher, Teresa Carson with author Jeanne Marie Beaumont at her book reading last night in NYC!
Today for National Poetry Month, our Managing editor, Starr Troup selects a poem from Nin Andrews’ Miss August.
I was a born nobody—my days so dull, I lay in my bed and watched dust rise. I listened to insect songs. And kept things to myself. I remember two silver dollars in my bedside table. A snow globe I wanted to climb inside. My pony, Annabel, that I didn’t ride. And more whippings than I can count. After a while I didn’t feel a sting. I learned there is a reason to lie. Not to ask. Not to tell. Not to flinch. Anybody asked, I said, Nothing happened. And nothing did. My friend, Sarah Jane Lee, she disagrees. She says I suffered. She says she did, too. And I thought she was the happy one. Nuh-uh, she shakes her head. She blames the South for everything wrong in our lives; everything bad, everything rotten or bitter as turnip greens. Come on up to New York, I say. Leave that place.
Nah, she says. I can’t live any place else. She gets a way-off look in her eyes. Besides, she says, folks up North don’t talk right.
Did you enjoy reading this poem? Comment below.
Joan Cusack Handler, Publisher and Senior Editor of CavanKerry Press says, “This is a great distinction for a great book! We are very proud to have published Jesus was a Homeboy and to see it receive this affirmation from the greater poetry community.”
If you don’t have a copy of this remarkable book, you’re missing out. Get your copy today by clicking here.
Author Tina Kelley discusses her joy of writing poetry, motherhood, her latest book “Abloom & Awry“, and takes aim at President Trump.
Read Tina Kelley’s full interview with Nin Andrews below.
Nin Andrews (NA): I love what I sensed as your joie de vivre, or your joy of writing, expressed to beautifully in this collection, and in your opening poem, “The Possible Utility of Poets.”
I especially loved the lines in which you quote your son: “The earth blooms a full inch when my son/explains, ‘A noun is basically everything. We can’t go anywhere without nouns.// They’re always next to us,’”
I wondered if you could say a few words about that poem, about your love of language and of poetry in particular.
Tina Kelley (TK): Thank you! I’m glad you sensed that! I am basically a cheerful, optimistic person, though I have a morbid streak, and I hope this book captures both angles. I love obscure words, and read through lists of them as a way to get inspired to write. I also steal shamelessly from real life, particularly from my experiences writing news and nonfiction, and especially from my kids. My son actually said that line, and I wrote it down. He’s gotten to the point where he will say something poetic and immediately urge me to write it down. He’s 12 now, and he still comes up with beautiful turns of phrases. The other day he told me I had “heathered eyes,” which I immediately stole and put in the file of “phrases that want to be in poems someday.”
RELATED: Abloom & Awry by Tina Kelley available now!
Today for National Poetry Month, our Managing editor, Starr Troup selects a poem which comes from Christopher Bursk’s A Car Stops And A Door Opens.
Read “The Key” by author Christopher Bursk below.
Here, the man says, stopping you on the street,
is the key to my heart,
and he closes your fingers
around a real key and then vanishes so quickly
you aren’t sure he’d stood next to you
and when you unclench your fist,
the sun chooses that exact moment
Ross Gay, author of Against Which, stops by Rachel Zucker’s podcast for an exclusive interview.
Ross Gay talks about how poems can help you look at difficult emotions and much more!
Rachel Zucker speaks with poet, teacher, gardner and community organizer Ross Gay. Gay is the author of Bringing Down the Shovel, Against Which, River, and Catlog of Unabashed Gratitude which won the Kinglsey Tufts Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Zucker and Gay talk about gardens, seasonal changes, teenage boys, anger, sorrow, stress reduction, and how poems can help you look at difficult emotions. Gay reads from his book Catlog and one of his new, unpublished “delights”.
Listen to the Commonplace episode with Ross Gay at the link below.
Happy National Poetry Month!
To celebrate, our Managing editor, Starr Troup selected a poem from Tina Kelley’s Abloom & Awry.
We are proud to present this poem to celebrate National Poetry Month.
Read “Tuesday Afternoon Metaphysics Lesson” by author Tina Kelley below.
Today Kate said she was drawing an angry ghost.
I asked what’s he mad at?
“Me,” she said.
“Cause I’m drawing him.”
How Heisenberg-y, as if
a spirit had hovered in the molecules
of her blue crayon tip who could’ve emerged
in any old emotional state, if that dimpled
fist had not borne down so hard.
And I know if I ask why she’s drawing him
she will holler, “yer buggin’ me!” so I just answer
what comes after G, why H, and how to draw the S.
And we place the labeled picture on the fridge,
that altar to preschool power, to delineation itself.
Did you enjoy reading this poem? Comment below.
We are proud to present another poem to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here’s “Things I’ve Lost” from Kevin Carey’s Jesus Was a Homeboy.
Things I’ve Lost
My father’s wedding ring
my tax returns
my bronze baby shoes
my orange high-cut sneakers
my first Christmas ornament
my ability to play defense
on a basketball court
some of my friends (living and dead)
some of the wonder
some of the grace
some of the time I spent
looking for love
or something to fix me
April is National Poetry Month. To celebrate an entire month dedicated to poetry, we start with “Post Mortem” from Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s Letters from Limbo.
Who killed Anna K.?
Not I, said Belladonna of the nightshade family.
I supply atropine to dilate pupils, anesthetize.
It’s true I can produce rapid heart rate,
but I’m an antidote to poisoning with morphine.
Only overdose will cause coma, convulsions,
delirium. Look, I prevent cardiac slowing—
it surely was not me!
CavanKerry Press is pleased to have been nominated as a finalist by Association of Writers & Writing Programs for the 2017 AWP Small Press Publisher Award!
AWP’s Small Press Publisher Award is an annual prize for nonprofit presses and literary journals that recognizes the important role such organizations play in publishing creative works and introducing new authors to the reading public. The award acknowledges the hard work, creativity, and innovation of these presses and journals, and honors their contributions to the literary landscape through their publication of consistently excellent work.
Congrats to Coffee House Press, winner of the 2017 AWP Small Press Publisher Award and the other small press finalist Belladonna.
We hope for another opportunity to be nominated for this prestigious award next year with the support of our fans. Letters of nomination are accepted each year between August 1 – September 15 and submitted through AWP’s Submittable portal.
Get the full details about our nomination on awpwriter.org.
Author Christoper Bursk discusses writing, poetry, and his latest book ‘A Car Stops and A Door Opens‘.
Read Christopher Bursk’s full interview with Nin Andrews below.
Nin Andrews (NA): I so enjoyed reading A Car Stops and a Door Opens. How long did it take you to write this collection? Can you talk a little about the evolution of the book?
Chris Bursk (CB): I have been working on this book for a number of years. Some poems – the ekphrastic ones – date back several decades. The poems about parents go back at least a decade. The book decided it wanted the poem “A Car Stops And a Door Opens” to be the opening into the book – there are a number of doors in the book – doors in the body, doors in the mind, trapdoors too.
Bill Murray is a lifelong lover of verse who’s been a supporter of New York City’s Poets House for more than 20 years.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, O Magazine asked Murray to share a few of his favorite poems.
The first poem Bill Murray selected was Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye.
Watch the video below of Amos Koffa performing at this year’s NJ Poetry Out Loud.
The State Champion of New Jersey Poetry Out Loud 2017 is Amos Koffa of Burlington County Institute of Technology – Medford Campus. Here he is with “Let the Light Enter” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
Amos Koffa will head to the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., to compete at the National Finals of Poetry Out Loud in April 2017.
CavanKerry Press author Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s “Letters from Limbo” makes an appearance on Poetry Daily.
In Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s book, Letters from Limbo, voices of the dead reach the living through various means, including the titular letters, revealing experiences harrowing and mysterious. Fluent in many modes, the poet commands varied poetic forms both illuminating and celebrating the haunting truth of our unpredictable earthly sojourn as we dwell in metaphorical limbo.
Poetry Daily is an anthology of contemporary poetry. Each day, the website brings new poems from books, magazines, and journals. Read “Letters from Limbo” by Jeanne Marie Beaumont which appeared on Poetry Daily below.
CavanKerry Press author Joseph O. Legaspi is featured in the December 2016 issue of Poetry Magazine.
Check out the visual poetry called “Scale” by Shira Dentz here.
Shira Dentz is also the author of “door of thin skins” release by CavanKerry Press. Door of Thin Skins, a hybrid collection of poetry and prose, deconstructs the nature of psychological power through the deconstruction of traditional narrative and language.
“There is no doubt poetry is cathartic especially when it comes to dealing with loss or with regret or with aging. Thinking about a poem, writing a poem, can be a kind of self-examination, I think, a way to make sense of the loss, whether it be the kind of loss that manifest itself through mistakes I’ve made, or wishing I had done things differently, or just the natural passing of time.”
Wanda S. Praisner, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop
West Caldwell Public Library
30 Clinton Road
West Caldwell, NJ
Saturday, December 3rd, 2 PM (Free)
Sandra M. Castillo is a poet and South Florida resident. She was born in Havana, Cuba and emigrated on one of the last Freedom Flights. In this exclusive interview with Nin Andrews, Sandra discusses her life and becoming a writer.
Read the full interview with Sandra M. Castillo below.
Nin Andrews (NA): I would love to start by asking you to post the poem, “Pizza,” here, and then say a little bit about your life story. When did you emigrate from Cuba? How old were you then?
Sandra M. Castillo (SC): Pizza
I sit in East Hialeah,
a white, leather-top stool at Mr. Bee’s Pizza,
a left over, outdoor 50s soda shop
just off Palm Avenue.
These are out days with Father,
and this is his favorite spot.
Mabel and Mitzy shift their weight
to their feet, push into a spin.
Father lets them, so does Mr. Bee,
and we were drink 10-ounce bottles
of Coca Cola with our slices
while Father and Mr. Bee try
to understand each other’s language.
It is our first year in Miami.
Mother work days, Father nights,
and in that small, one bedroom apartment
Tía Estela rented for us a year before we arrived,
we watch American cartoons:
Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry,
run around the orange trees in the backyard,
think the world is 310 East 10th Street,
walks to and from El Caibarien,
Coca Cola, a slice
I think I was born knowing that we would be leave Cuba. Household conversations, particularly hush-toned ones, were always about our departure. It was always a question of the when. My mother’s oldest sister, who had left the island prior to the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, had arrived in Key West in 1958. If you can believe it, she actually traded homes with an American who was traveling through Pinar del Rio and fell in love with an idea of himself in the Caribbean. He offered her his home in Miami in exchange for hers. Sight unseen, she accepted the offer and came on the ferry (Havana-Key West) with her husband, her children and all their possessions. By the time I was born, she was sending my parents Gerber baby food and all things American, including the Sears catalogue.
By 1962, the year I was born, my parents and I had US entry visas. My father’s brother, who had come left Cuba before the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the island, had sent us US entry visas in the hope that we would follow, but my mother refused to leave her parents behind and the visas expired.
Then, in September of 1965, Fidel Castro stood at La Plaza de la Revolucion and made an unexpected announcement. Beginning in October of 1965, the Port of Camarioca would be open to Cubans wishing to leave the island. Castro also said the port would be open to anyone wishing to go pick up their relatives. Cubans who opted to leave the island, however, were effectively forfeiting their property and possessions to the Castro government. This exodus did not last. It did, however, lead to conversations between the United States and Cuba, which ultimately negotiated what became known as The Freedom Flights. These twice-a-day-flights were made possible via diplomatic talks as the Johnson administration wanted an orderly exodus. As such, specific criteria was set in place. In order for a family to leave the island via these flights, that family had to be claimed from the United States by a US citizen who agreed to be financially responsible for those family members. Once that paperwork was completed, that given family (in Cuba) was assigned an exit number. By the time our number (160,633) came up, my grandparents had passed away. We arrived in the United States in the summer of 1970: my parents, my twin sisters, who were four and me. I was eight years old.
I loved your first book, and now I love this one even more (Jesus Was My Homeboy). It’s so accessible, so immediate, for lack of a better term. In your poems, you capture beautifully the midlife angst of time passing you by. I was wondering if you could say a few words about that, and then maybe post the poem, “Not Much to It.”
I’ll be 60 in March so it’s heavy on my mind lately. That used to seem ancient to me as a young man. I like to think I’m in the second half, but it’s probably more like the last quarter. It gets you thinking about the journey.
Not much to it.
You draw with chalk
on your sidewalk.
You ride your bike.
You go for ice cream
with your friends.
You party in college.
You get to figuring
by the fire
on a cold night
in the mountains.
You listen to jazz
on the ocean.
You catch a ball game
now and then.
You cradle with
different folks till you
find one that fits.
wake up one day
sitting on a
missing your kids
patting your dog
drinking a can of cold beer,
the summer night
like a blanket on your shoulders
and something you knew
floats by in the night sky
just out of reach.
I also love how you write about your family, about what I, the reader, imagine is often happening right now. Do you ever feel a need for distance between yourself and your subject matter?
I feel like I have to maintain a certain distance to be able to write the poems at all. The initial memory is the prompt to the poem but once I get into it I want to write it honestly, so standing back (and trying to remove the emotion) helps to get it right in my mind.
What does your family think of your books?
I have not heard too many complaints. My wife and kids are very supportive. They’re okay knowing there’s a good chance they’ll end up in a poem or two. My brothers and sisters are proud of their little brother I suppose. I think I get them weepy once in a while. The other day I went to my mother’s grave and read a few of the poems she was in. I did the same for my father when the last book came out. They didn’t offer any criticism. (ha ha). I miss them.
You have a talent for offering a sense of place in your poetry. Reading, I feel as if I am in the car with you, or I am in the coffee shop or the park or the sauna at the Y or . . . Is this something you are conscious of doing?
I do often think about painting that picture, how the right detail or two can focus the place for you. My fiction class and I were reading a story by Richard Ford the other day and the subject looks out to the mountains and sees a “red bar sign.” We talked about how that one small detail cemented the scene in our minds. I’m always searching for that right detail. I hope some of the time I can find it.
This book has such a natural flow. Reading it, I imagined that the words glided onto the page without effort. (Of course, we all hope to sound that way.) But I am thinking, it wasn’t too long ago that your first book was published by CavanKerry. How was the writing of this different from the writing of the first? Was it just a natural continuation?
In many ways it does feel like a continuation of the same subjects – family, place, death, grief, regret. It sounds so somber when I list the topics like that but these people and these memories have had a profound effect on me. I can’t get away from them. I put the pen to the page and they keep showing up.
As a poet you have this funny, whimsical side, but you also have a profound seriousness mixed in, as in the poem, “Death Wish,” which ends, “I want it to be special, magical/worth the wait,/ after being afraid for so long.” I just wanted to applaud when I read that line. Do you think of yourself as a funny poet? Is wit, in your opinion, an essential ingredient of your poetry?
I do sometimes make myself laugh when I’m writing. You always hope what you find funny or whimsical will translate. There’s nothing worse than pulling out the funny poem at a reading and staring back at the tight-lipped crowd. The subjects I deal with need some humor from time to time or the weight might kill me.
What is the most challenging part of writing a collection of poetry?
I feel like the collection piece can sometimes come after the poetry. In both these books I started by publishing a bunch of poems until I had a stack to weed through, pulling out the ones that didn’t make sense together, then writing some more to fill in the thematic gaps. I’ve yet to set out with a totally thematic intent, as far as a collection goes, but I always end up there. I have talked about tackling a specific subject with the next book. We’ll see how that goes.
Are there any writers who helped or inspired you in the writing of this book?
Many. Phil Levine was my first inspiration and remains so today. But there are many others, Jerry Stern, Ruth Stone, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Charles Simic. I also get inspiration from songwriters like Johnny Cash and Lucinda Williams. I am fortunate to be close to two great groups of poets as well, one in Salem, Mass and the other in New Jersey. I owe these folks a lot.
I am always interested in titles. When did you know that this was your title?
I imagined it not long after I published the title poem. It felt like (to me) it contained a lot of the bittersweet-ness of some of the other poems.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about this book?
I’m happy it’s here. The response has been humbling.
I would love to close the poem, “Reading to My Kids,” about your daughter reading Of Mice and Men.
I was so happy to hear Garrison Keillor reading this poem on The Writer’s Almanac. But now I have to follow him when I read it in public!
Reading To My Kids
When they were little I read
to them at night until my tongue
got tired. They would poke me
when I started to nod off after twenty
pages of Harry Potter or one of
the Lemony Snickett novels. I read to
them to get them to love reading
but I was never sure if it was working
or if it just looked like the right thing to do.
But one day, my daughter ( fifteen then)
was finishing Of Mice and Men in the car
on our way to basketball. She was at
the end when I heard her say, No
in a familiar frightened voice and I
knew right away where she was,
“Let’s do it now,” Lennie begged,
“Let’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta.”
And she stared crying, then I started
crying, and I think I saw Steinbeck
in the backseat nodding his head,
and it felt right to me,
like I’d done something right,
and I told her keep going,
read it to me, please, please, I can take it.
Sarah Bracey White, White Plains Women’s Club (White Plains, NY)
Wednesday October 26th at 1 pm
Sarah will be the keynote speaker and will be reading from Primary Lesssonsat the “Annual Book and Author Luncheon, 100th Anniversary Celebration”
Kevin Carey, Del Rossi’s Trattoria (Dublin, NH)
Sunday, October 30th at 3pm
Kevin will be part of an open poetry reading with Katie Towler
In this raw essay, Jackie Guttman, a member of the CKP ADA Advisory Board, writes with searing honesty about the change from being taken care of by her husband to becoming his caregiver. I’m grateful to her for daring to speak about the resentment associated with caregiving.
-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher
A sentiment I’ve heard a lot from friends – and which I share – is “this is not the life I expected.” One friend did not expect her very sociable husband to develop dementia; one did not expect her always healthy husband to die at 69 of pancreatic cancer; one did not expect her young up-and-coming husband to make bad decisions that left them having to watch their pennies in retirement. One even had her lover of three decades dump her when he became widowed; she was married and he no longer wanted a clandestine girl friend. It’s a loss of equilibrium. For better and worse, people evolve as they mature, inevitably changing the rules of the marital game. The scales tip.
In my own case, my husband was my caregiver by the time I was 30. My rheumatoid arthritis, in addition to affecting my hands, shoulders, knees and other joints, caused enormous fatigue. Howard never complained. He did the laundry; he took us for rides when walking was difficult; he did the bulk of the shopping; he didn’t cook, but neither did he expect me to produce meals. (We sent out a lot.) When necessary, he helped me dress – and still does on occasion. Over the past 25 years he has seen me through four major knee surgeries. All this enabled me to attend graduate school and work, albeit part-time. There was nothing he would not do for me, and to this day he opens bottles, jars, cans, medicine containers and recalcitrant fruit and vegetable packages.
About 20 years ago he was diagnosed with breast cancer. A mastectomy and Tamoxifen took care of it until it returned 11 years later. This time he had surgery, chemo and radiation, all of which left him somewhat damaged. A robust and big guy at 6’3” and 215 pounds, he lost 30 pounds and turned into this bald, skinny, pale-faced man. After both of his surgeries I dealt with his drains, pinning them to his undershirts so they would not pull. I sat with him as he slept through chemotherapy. Together, we laughed at post-op instructions that told him not to shave under his arms or wear an underwire bra. He gained back much of the weight, his color improved and his gorgeous white hair grew back, but since that time he has had more than his share of medical problems. He has had a hip replaced and had three spinal surgeries with extensive rehab. He has severe neuropathy of his hands and feet. Despite having normal cholesterol levels and blood pressure, he had a very mild and initially misdiagnosed stroke two years ago. At 79 he is bent over and walks with a cane or walker at the speed of a slow snail. With a diminished appetite he has lost additional weight and we are struggling to deal with that before frailty sets in. He drives, but far less than he used to. And just today, in another bitter blow, he was given a diagnosis of probable oral cancer – he who never smoked.
I, thanks to superb medical care and luck, have held my own and even improved. In many ways, and despite limitations, I am in better shape than I was 20 years ago. I do not appear ill so I am perceived as my husband’s designated caregiver. I do much of the driving, though my joints regret it if I exceed 90 minutes. When we go to our vacation home, I bring most things to and from the car. I sometimes help him with buttons, a frustrating challenge. Loading and unloading the dishwasher has been his purview for years; now I often do it. Though I’m fairly tall, he always reached the things in high places; now that has become my job, when I can do it, or we have to ask others. I drop him off and park the car, as he used to for me. I pave the way. I advocate. He is still quite strong, but everything takes him so long that I do more than I need to out of sheer impatience. We rented a scooter for him on a recent cruise. It was a godsend for him, but as I trotted alongside it I felt like it was my pace car. Doors on ships are extremely heavy and not always automatic; I became the doorwoman, pulling them open with both hands and slithering around to lean on and hold them.
Though I can and do offer emotional support, I am not a natural nurturer; he is. This is not a role I relish. I see one friend cater to her husband’s dietary needs and another one tenderly feed her husband meals. She also changes his diapers and keeps him clean. I don’t think I could do that. After over 40 years with RA, while I’m grateful that I can do what I do, I admit I resent the caregiving. As I see my husband begin to need more, I find I cannot be his keeper. That sounds heartless even to me, but I know that when I do extra lifting, carrying and driving, it takes me three days of rest and painkillers to recover. I must protect myself. I see my friend drive to Albany and back in one day for her husband’s medical needs; one way would be too much for me.
Our retirement plans included travel but it’s become complicated; we used to take long auto trips with our kids and I’d hoped to do more. Not gonna happen. Flying involves wheelchairs and, again, careful planning. Cruising ditto. We do it, but… this is not the life I expected. Ironically, I thought that I’d be in a wheelchair by now and am grateful that I’m still on my feet, but why-oh-why can’t we both be more able?
We don’t laugh like we used to; there’s too much bad stuff. However, we often tell each other how fortunate we feel, and we really do. We do not have financial problems. We do have each other, for however long. Our minds are intact, mostly. We have our kids and grandchildren. We have love.
Ah, but I do miss the old Howard. My protector is gone.
Joan Cusack Handler, Canio’s Book Store (290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY)
Saturday, October 22nd at 5pm
Joan will be reading from Orphans
Kevin Carey, Dodge Poetry Festival (First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church, Newark, NJ)
Saturday October 22nd at 5pm
Kevin is part of a festival reading with Nicole Terez Dutton, Celeste Gainey, Amy Meng, and Deborah Paredez
The Disabled & D/deaf Writers Caucus
A yearly meeting at the annual AWP Conference & aims to allow for disabled individuals to network and discuss common challenges related to identity, writing, and teaching while professionally leading a literary life.”
Poetry Society of Michigan Outreach Project
The Poetry Society of Michigan has created a program where the members work with individuals or groups who lack a particular ability or who live in an overwhelming situation. The poet offers opportunities to write poems, read poetry, talk about both and discover the impact that doing so has on the person, her/his daily life, and on the member of the Society. It is poignant, profound, and powerful how adding poetry in this way affects the recipient’s each day, perceiving what heretofore has been overlooked, unrealized.
The National Arts and Disability Center
The National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) promotes the full inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities into all facets of the arts community.
Disability Visibility Project
The Disability Visibility Project (DVP)™ is an online community dedicated to recording,amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. The DVP is also a community partnership with StoryCorps, a national oral history organization.
University of Delaware, The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities: Recommended books about the disability experience
The Ability Center: Links and resources
The Art of Autism
An international collaboration of talented individuals who have come together to display the creative abilities of people on the autism spectrum and others who are neurodivergent.
Alliance for Arts and Health New Jersey
Connects artists and arts professionals and those who provide health and wellness services in order to educate, advocate, and advance best practices in arts and health.
“A Short History or Disabled Poetry” by Michael Northen
“There is still a long way to go, however, before disability poetry gets the attention that it deserves. While the poets above show the increased tendency of poets with disabilities to view physical disability as a social construction, it should not be thought that the saccharine and paternalistic poems about disability have ceased to be written. Just as the charity and medical models of disability still hold sway in the American mind at large, they also continue in poetry about disability”
PBS Newshour: Meet the Deaf Poets Society, a digital journal for writers with disabilities
“Katz said members of the disability community have struggled to find its place in the literary world, with many writers asking who is afforded space to write in a world that often renders disabled people invisible.”
Poetry Foundation: “Disability and Poetry, an exchange“
Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature
Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of Disability Literature & Art
Breath and Shadow: A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
Portal to the disability blog word
The Barefoot Review: Creative Works about Health
Poetry Out Loud: Accessibility for all students
Disability Social History Project: Resources from the web
National Endowment for the Arts: Accessibility Resources
Jack Ridl, Honorary Chancellor of the Michigan Poetry Society (MPS) and a member of the CKP ADA Advisory Board, describes the MPS’ outreach program in which the members work with individuals or groups who lack a particular ability or who live in an overwhelming situation. CKP collaborates on this program by donating books.
The Poetry Society of Michigan has created a program in which the members work with individuals or groups who lack a particular ability or who live in an overwhelming situation. The poet offers opportunities to write poems, read poetry, talk about both and discover the impact that doing so has on the person, her/his daily life, and on the member of the Society. It is poignant, profound, and powerful how adding poetry in this way affects the recipients each day, perceiving what heretofore has been overlooked, unrealized.
CavanKerry Press has enabled this program to have what it could not possibly afford–access to CKP’s astonishing works, books that matter and connect with those taking part in the program. Someone with Multiple Sclerosis, for example, can ask for Body of Diminishing Motion, Joan Sidney’s important work. You can imagine what it means to discover that there really is someone out there who has, through her exquisite art, offered what it is REALLY like to live with this malady. Imagine what it means to be so deeply understood, to feel less alone, to receive the permission to create out of his/her actual difficult world. Imagine the member of the society coming to know this world from the inside, to know how care is transformed into caring empathy, how difference is erased by shared understanding.
Yes, this program is another where who is helping whom is mutual, where a soulful kind of healing transpires through the loving generosity of the intelligently caring talent in The Poetry Society of Michigan and of the great good heart that is CavanKerry Press.
CKP’s commitment to making poetry accessible to everyone isn’t just words in a mission statement—as evidenced by the letter from Jennifer Clark, a member of the Michigan Poetry Society who participates in its outreach program.
“Thanks for sharing these treasures. Thank you many times over.” These words are is just some of the lovely comments that have come my way since distributing the beautiful books you selected and sent my way as part of the outreach project between CavanKerry Press and the Poetry Society of Michigan.
Since then, I have received a dozen emails from the older woman who organized an opportunity for me to read and discuss poetry. In one, she wrote, “I have no background in basketball other than a gym class a hundred years ago, but Jack Ridl has caught me in Losing Season. It is fun to read and I keep going back for more.” She is finishing Walking with Ruskin and loves the faith and nature themes. When she finishes it, she’ll share it with her granddaughter and daughter and then, as she’s done with Losing Season, donate to the library of her retirement center so more people can enjoy the book. Also, in a few weeks I’ll be taking up her invitation to have lunch at her retirement home and meet/discuss poetry with her and her 96 year old friend (to whom she lent Losing Season and “she loved it!”).
I’m sorry if this rambles on but thought CavanKerry Press ought to know how the books you send out through this outreach project take on a life of their own. Here in Kalamazoo, you are rekindling love for poetry, creating new friendships, helping people feel less isolated, and, in my case, carving out precious space in a crowded, noisy world.
Kevin Carey, Newton Free Library (Newton, MA)
Monday, October 11th at 7pm
Kevin will be reading from Jesus Was A Homeboy
Sandra Castillo, Black Dog on the Square (567 Industrial Drive, Tallahassee, FL)
Thursday, October 13th at 7pm
Sandra will be reading from Eating Moors and Christians
Joan Seliger Sidney, Mystic Museum of Art (9 Water Street, Mystic, CT)
Friday, October 14th at 7:30pm
Joan will be the opening voice for Marilyn Hacker’s Arts Cafe reading
Margo Taft Stever and Richard Jeffrey Newman, The 2016 Western Maryland Independent Literary Festival (Frostburg State University)
Saturday, October 15th and 11am in the Library Mtg. Room
Margo and Richard will join Susana H. Case, Ellen Kombiyil for the panel After Violence: The Poetics of Trauma and Resistance:
The panel investigates the role of factual accuracy in poetry and poetics—why poets choose to invent or alter facts and the difficulty in portraying traumatic memory. To call something real suggests that it is so in relation to ourselves, but there are multiple realities to daily life and its events, accuracy a form of negotiated reality. What if research reveals conflicting truths? What is the cost of invention to the poem and to the poet? How do the psychological and physiological workings of memory and post-traumatic growth affect the act of writing? How does the influence of the world outside the writer, its politics, memes, and rewarded behaviors, hinder or enrich the truth as it is conveyed in poetry?
Welcome to CavanKerry Press’s third annual “October is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Awareness Month.” Throughout the month we’ll be posting new essays by members of the CKP ADA Advisory Board, re-posting “greatest hits” from previous years, and providing useful links to ADA resources (e.g. journals that publish disability-related creative writing; advocacy groups; interesting articles).
If you have any comments or disability-related resources that you’d like to tell us about then email Teresa Carson at Teresa@cavankerrypress.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
Jack Ridl, The Lost Lake Writers Retreat (Alpena, MI)
Jack will be joining Dorianne Laux, Kelly Forden, and Irina Reyn at The Lost Lake Writers Retreat
Shira Dentz, The Seligmann Center (Chester, NY)
Sunday October 9th at 2pm
Shira will be a featured reader
Sarah Sousa launched a mini lit mag which is delivered via the Tinyletter platform to subscribers’ inboxes every Wednesday. Subscription is free.
To subscribe: https://tinyletter.com/QueenofCups
Submission info: https://sarahasousa.com/queen-of-cups/
I was so moved by this collection (Tornadoesque), I needed a box of tissue beside me just to read it. Whatever you are writing about—whether it is your daughter’s bipolar episode, your father’s Alzheimer’s, or your bisexuality, you transform your subject matter into such lyrical beauty. I know it’s silly to ask, but, how do you do it?
We have a running joke in our family—my wife Dana Roeser, also a poet, takes great pleasure in reminding me, sometimes on a daily basis, that I’m a beauty slut. Oddly, I don’t think of my poems as particularly lyric or beautiful. If they have any strength, I would like to think it lies in seizing a particular situation, image, emotion, thought, or narrative and making it as “super real” as possible. Like many poets, I’m never sure what a poem is really about when I start writing. It usually begins with an urgent phrase or image that with a lot of luck will accumulate other resonant statements or images. For me one of the primary poetic “virtues,” if you will, is precision. I’d like my poems to spring from particular things that can be seen and felt. In “Epilogue,” one of his late poems, Robert Lowell, largely overlooked now, spoke of “the grace of accuracy.” I’m a fan of that phrase.
Sometimes, while reading Tornadoesque, I felt as if I were in the midst of an emotional tornado. I thought of Wordsworth’s line—writing is emotion recollected in tranquility, and I wondered if you were one of those rare poets who can write in the middle of the storm. Or did you compose these poems after the fact?
I’m so glad that you bring up Wordsworth and “emotion recollected in tranquility.” I’m constantly bemused by his advice. Often, though not always, I find myself writing poems “in the storm,” as you say. If one is drawn to write about highly emotional subjects, as I am, then I think that one of the best ways is to write in the throes of that emotion. My metaphor would be Odysseus commanding his crew to bind him to the mast and then taking the beeswax (yes, I know I’m changing Homer’s narrative) out of his ears to hear the song of the sirens. Like the mast, poetry is a “mainstay” for me. That said, some of my poems begun in the tornado are finished in relative tranquility.
Every poem in this book is powerful, but the poem about your daughter’s mental breakdown, “Litany on 1st Avenue for My Daughter” is just breath-taking. I wonder if you could post an excerpt here and talk about the process of composing that poem?
“Litany . . .” is also one of my favorite pieces in the book. It’s written in prose because I did not want “to poeticize” mental illness in any way. It was composed on the spot in New York City and shortly after our older daughter’s first (and, so far, only) bipolar episode. I would walk from her small fifth-floor apartment on Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, which she shared with two roommates and where I was staying while she was hospitalized, twenty-five blocks north to the Langone Medical Center on 1st Avenue. So I got to know the intervening neighborhoods and was struck by the contrast between the vibrancy, even flamboyance, of the street life and Eleanor’s situation on a locked psych ward. I wrote the piece longhand (my usual practice) in a few days, didn’t know what to do with it, kept it in rough draft, and didn’t even bother typing it on my computer. I thought that it might be the first section of a much longer poem, but I never went back to it. Finally, after a year, I pulled the rough draft out again, started messing around with it, and realized what was painfully obvious, that it recorded accurately all the emotions of that moment and didn’t need to be “filled out” in any way.
To give you some of the poem’s texture, let me quote a very narrative riff from the middle of “Litany . . .”:
Ambulance sirens screech their way along 1st Avenue through thickening traffic toward Bellevue’s ER Pedestrians put their forefingers in their ears I refuse to muffle, O my deafened daughter, your pain or my grief. Let the 120-decibel sirens puncture my eardrums for all I care Two nights ago the ambulance carried you, O my beautiful babbling daughter, to Bellevue where I checked you in “for psychiatric evaluation” and a one-night stay We waited in the waiting room next to three men handcuffed to their chairs. One was a 250-pound black man, named improbably John Smith, in a green and white Celtics sweatshirt with satin shamrocks, who would occasionally pull out of his jeans’ pocket a small green Bible and start reading the Psalms aloud. He needed Zoloft and an antipsychotic. Juan, a scrawny Puerto Rican, grew increasingly agitated, both legs bouncing uncontrollably up and down, as he waited for the nurse to give him his methadone. Red-headed Kevin, in his early twenties, wore a retro black leather jacket, white T-shirt, jeans, and Converse sneakers. He had been brought in to pick up his lithium. Each of the three had just been arrested and was accompanied by his own police officer. John Smith had a young black cop, equally huge, with a bulletproof vest. Juan had a Latino cop, and they were constantly talking back and forth in Spanish like the best of friends. Kevin’s escort was a red-faced, jovial, Irish cop with blue eyes and hair red as Kevin’s. He was worried about getting all the paperwork filled out correctly You had greeted each handcuffed man in turn like a long-lost brother and introduced yourself, “Hi, I’m Eleanor!” All three perked up You were wearing your yellow harem pants, a vest of black rabbit skin given to you by a girl- friend from Paris, and a long purple silk scarf coiled artfully around your thin neck like a pet python After fifteen minutes, you looked around the waiting room and announced, “My hands are so cold. I need a doctor to check them. Dad, feel how cold they are” I held both your hands in mine, and indeed your fingers were bony icicles You snatched them away and put your palms on top of the black cop’s close-shaven head as if to warm them “Hey, whadja think you’re doing? Get your hands off me!” he exclaimed, then turned to me. “You got to control your daughter” I gave him a long angry stare “Don’t give me no honky look” I said nothing, kept staring “Don’t mess with me, white man” The Latino cop and the Irish cop stepped quietly between us Kevin, disappointed that a fight wasn’t about to break out, said, “I got picked up for four separate misdemeanors at four different bars last night. That’s got to be some kind of record” The Irish cop smiled back at him amiably, “It sure is, son” John Smith muttered from his good book, “O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low”
I also love the title poem, “Tornadoesque.” Did you know, the minute your daughter came up with that word, that that would be the title of this book?
Nope. I did think immediately, though, that our younger daughter Lucy’s coined word should be the start of a poem. It often takes quite a while (years, I’m afraid) for me to discover the right title for a book. Just to return to “process” for a moment, the poem “Tornadoesque” was composed nine months after our older daughter’s bipolor episode. However, I worked from notes that I had jotted down at the time, and I acknowledge within the poem my distance from the traumatic events.
And the poem, “Snow’s Signature,” was a perfect poem about Emily Dickinson. Like so many of the poems, I wanted to savor it and read it again and again. I imagine each poem was rewritten many times?
I tend to do quite a bit of revision on most of my poems. Occasionally, however, as with “Snow’s Signature,” a poem will come out almost whole. All I’ll have to do is jiggle it here and there, polish it: lapidary work. Usually the longer I take to write a poem, the better it turns out. It will accumulate depth and resonance over time. So I quite happily work on just a few lines every day.
There is such openness in your poetry, such candor, as you discuss your bisexuality and longing for a male lover, your relationships to your wife and daughters, and your daughter’s mental illness. Do you ever hesitate before writing about deeply personal subjects?
Yes, there is much hesitation. But perhaps misguidedly, I use urgency as a litmus test to decide whether I should write about something. For instance, I felt that I had no choice but to write the poems about my bisexuality, even though it remains a painful subject for my wife, whom I love deeply. However, I think that not to write the poems or to write about my bisexuality in a more coded way would have been dishonest. I was compelled. As the poems indicate, I remain torn, divided by my sexuality. But the writing was a process of discovering a deep truth about my sexuality and has certainly led me to an acceptance of it. Bisexuality is not in any way sanctioned by society, as heterosexuality and, increasingly, homosexuality are. In 2005, The New York Times reported that male bisexuality did not exist. In 2014, it recanted its stand and opined that it did exist. Such attitudes are potentially very damaging for bisexuals because they deny the validity of their experience. It’s important to me, in my own odd way, to speak out and give witness to my experience of bisexuality.
Tell me about the evolution of this book. How and when it began? And how did it take shape?
As they say, that’s a long story. The oldest poems in the book go back twelve years to 2004, when I started writing the bisexual poems. As I see it, four distinct thematic strands intertwine throughout Tornadoesque. They are 1) bisexuality, 2) my daughter’s bipolar condition, 3) wars (World War I and the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts), and 4) a growing awareness of mortality. In early drafts of the book, I had divided these materials into their own sections, a strategy which was completely wrong-headed and led to a very static effect. Finally, after several years, I realized that it would be much more dynamic to braid these strands together and let images from one thematic grouping speak to, and echo, those in another. I think this approach works well and that the title sums up the swirling, unpredictable “order” of the book. I’m particularly proud that the last poem, “Inland in Eden on the Indiana Dunes with Nuclear Reactor,” manages to weave all the themes of the book together. I didn’t intend it that way; it just happened. The book was first called Chartres in the Dark, after the second poem in the collection. Then its title became Tomorrow Leaf, after a later poem. Finally, I settled on Tornadoesque.
In most of your poems, you alternate long and short lines, and I read that this is your trademark style. Can you talk about this style? How it developed? Why do you like it?
These long and short lines have always seemed to me to enable both narrative expansion and lyric contraction within one stanza. I can both tell an anecdote and isolate an image easily. Partly, of course, I like the “look” of the stanza on the page, so there’s an aspect that appeals to a visual, even painterly, aesthetic. The stanza has “shapeliness,” if you will. But, even though it’s a free verse structure, I’m counting beats, six to eight stresses usually in the longer lines, one to three in the shorter lines. I should say that some readers find the line breaks completely arbitrary and “private.”
The first poem that I wrote in this “shape” was called “Untitled.” It appears in my first book, Fresh Peaches, Fireworks, & Guns, and describes, among other things, the motion of surf against a shoreline. The ocean’s repetitive “in and out” rhythms seemed to suggest this form. However, more importantly, I was reading closely C.K. Williams’s poems in Tar at the time and liked the way that his long lines had to be printed with short, indented run-overs because they wouldn’t fit the usual trim size of poetry books. Those short “lines,” which weren’t technically lines, had for me great energy juxtaposed with the longer lines. I thought I’d try writing lines with run-overs “on purpose.” I looked at the result, one large paragraph with zigzagging margins, liked it, but also found it too “heavy” and “blocky.” Then I thought I should try dividing the “block” into shorter stanzas, to “aerate” it. Couplets seemed dull. I still remember the thrill when I marked off tercets with a ruler and saw how that reversing form took over: long, short, long; then short, long, short. In The Anxiety of Influence (a much maligned book at present, I think), Bloom speaks of “creative misprision,” a generative misreading of an older poet by a younger one. I hadn’t yet read Bloom, but it seems in retrospect that my form came directly out of such a “creative misprision.”
This is your fifth book. How has your experience of being a poet changed over the years?
Perhaps you know Carl Jung’s mapping of personality traits onto the compass rose? He says that (in addition to being either introverts or extroverts) we all begin our lives in different quadrants: north is intellect, east intuition, south emotion, and west the factual world. Jung thinks that we must travel in our “life journey” from our given quadrant toward its opposite. The intellectual person must become comfortable with emotion; the intuitive type should connect with the factual world, and vice versa. Metaphorically, I like to apply these personality categories to poetry: north is concerned with poetic structure, east with metaphor, south with sonics, and west with image. As a poet, I started in the south, in emotion, in my overwhelming infatuation with the sounds of words. I then moved west, through fact and image, towards intellect and the discovery of poetic structure as the great enabler of the poem’s voice. I’d love it if I could, within my poems, keep going round the compass rose all the way to the east, to intuition, to better grasp and express the irrational connections that make dynamic metaphor. As one gets older, one’s poetry can expand to include all the characteristics of the different quadrants. This may all sound rather abstract, eccentric, and conceptual, but I think it indicates my trajectory as a writer.
On a more practical level, I find as I get older that I care less about the reception of my poems and am willing to take greater risks with what I write. Tornadoesque is a good example of this willingness. I also am paradoxically committed to writing shorter, more compressed poems and, simultaneously, longer hybrid poems (up to forty pages), which are hard to place, apart from in a book-length manuscript.
Who are your gods and goddesses? Your mentors and influences?
My mother, who died two years ago at the age of ninety-six, was an amateur watercolor painter with a committed painting practice. More and more, I think I take artistic cues from her. She was always experimenting and pushing herself so that her style, recognizably her own, kept changing and developing.
In my early twenties, I started professional life as a cook. My mentor, Hiroshi Hayashi, who ran The Seventh Inn (a well-known, natural foods/macrobiotic restaurant in Boston’s now gentrified “combat zone,” whose clientele included strippers and the Celtics players who wanted to become better acquainted with the strippers), showed me artistic practice in another medium. I remember him cutting thin, almost transparent slices of tuna sashimi and arranging them into a huge peony on a white platter. Once, for a catering event, he baked a six-foot cod twisting as if swimming, the curves of its body held in place by heat-resistant twine. When it emerged from the pizza-style oven, he displayed it on a long metal dish garnished with all sorts of pickled vegetables. It looked as if it were weaving through colorful seaweed.
As for poets . . . Emily Dickinson (the star of “Snow’s Signature”), Elizabeth Bishop, George Oppen, Jimmy Schuyler, and W.H. Auden are some of the poets to whom I keep returning. I was lucky enough to study with poets Madeline DeFrees, Jim Tate, Greg Orr, Charles Wright, Larry Levis, and Mark Strand. I remain indebted, in different ways, to all six.
I’d love to hear you talk about your writing and editing process. What do you love/hate most about writing?
I love it when writing becomes a deep form of meditation in which one can lose one’s usual worried self and gain a deeper, calmer self (sorry to go all “new age” on you). I hate it when I realize that what I’ve been writing on a given day or over a certain week, month, or even year is utter bullshit and is best thrown away. Once I spent a whole summer writing about (of all things) the “home improvement” projects on which my wife and I had embarked. Stuff like laying stones for a patio, planting trees and perennials. All of this writing was unalleviatedly terrible and had to be trashed. Writing and revision never cease to be hard. My favorite quote on the subject is from Frank O’Connor: “You can’t revise nothing.”
I would love to close with another poem or an excerpt of your choice.
How about the first poem of Tornadoesque? Here it is:
YOUNG MAN AT THE BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO STORE, SATURDAY NIGHT Nine o’clock rush, and I’m standing in the long checkout line with a DVD entitled The Perfect Man, which my nearly twelve-year-old daughter wants us to watch, when through the electronic sensor there walks a man so handsome that this whole shop of dreams has to readjust. The women all take a deeper breath as if on cue, throw their shoulders back, and turn ever so slightly to keep him in their peripheral vision. Nothing has happened, everything has. He’s completely, genuinely, charmingly unaware of the stir he’s caused. He has wide blue eyes, brown hair, sideburns. His face is flushed from the cold outside. He wears a loose gray T-shirt that cannot hide, as the bodybuilders like to say, how “ripped” his torso is, biceps that bulge like a boa constrictor after swallowing a white rat. On his veined, tanned forearm a blue, tattooed Celtic knot uncurls. I want to run my dry tongue over that maze of lines cut into his flesh, then stained with indigo inks. But he’s obviously heterosexual, wholesomely Midwestern, and high-fives some friends standing in line. They have other plans for the night. I taste my own loneliness, a wedge of lemon squeezed into a tall shining wineglass of ice water. Drink it all down, I tell myself. Crack the ice cubes between your teeth. I’ve never slept with a man. My wife says that she’ll leave me if I do. I understand her point of view. I do, I do. I look around this store that rents out stories. Which one is mine? Where is the bisexual who has decided to stay in his marriage? In Little Miss Sunshine, the faggot slits his wrists offscreen in the first scene, then has to live, wear gauze bandages like a tennis player’s elastic wristbands for the rest of the film. We laugh. In Broke- back Mountain, the two young cowboys make love in the open in full view of the desolate, panoramic Rockies. They go back to town, get married, have kids, and cannot leave their wives or girlfriends though they live for their “fishing trips” in the mountains together. They writhe on baited hooks. One lover gets his head bashed in with a tire iron by a homophobe on a west Texas roadside. We cry. Drama. Comedy. Thalia and Melpomene’s two masks. There must be other scripts. How do I write this life? All I have is my mechanical pencil, crossing one word out, tracing another onto an empty page. This is Indiana, America’s “heartland,” a family video store. No man holds hands here with another man on the street. Someone has written in pink spray paint FAGS LIVE HERE on the sidewalk in front of my gay friends’ house. They scrubbed it off with turpentine. Ghosts of those pink letters still remain. My tongue cannot unknot the knot on the young man’s forearm.